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High school girls basketball: Freshman Sosefina Langi plays beyond her years in leading Highland past Mountain View

It would be hard to guess Highland’s Sosefina Langi was a freshman by how she played during the Rams’ 54-45 win over the Bruins on Thursday

Highland’s Kaija Glasker (22), center, celebrates the win over Mountain View with teammate Lei Makaui (2) during a 5A girls semifinal game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Highland won 54-45.
Highland’s Kaija Glasker (22), center, celebrates the win over Mountain View with teammate Lei Makaui (2) during a 5A girls semifinal game at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. Highland won 54-45.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Highland’s Sosefina Langi played well beyond her years in leading her team past Mountain View 54-45 and into the 5A state championship.

Playing as if she’d been there several times before, Langi scored a game-high 19 points on 8 for 14 shooting from the field while pulling down 11 rebounds, which was also a game high for any player.

“I don’t know what makes that young lady tick, but the focus she has ... when the lights come on, there’s just something (big) about what she does. She’s a special player,” said Highland coach Kurt Schneider.

It’s the sort of coach quote usually said about an experienced senior who has been through a lot of battles, but turns out Langi is merely a freshman, playing in her very first state tournament.

When asked about her standout performance in Thursday’s win on the big stage of the Huntsman Center, Langi quickly deflected any praise coming her direction.

“It’s a team thing. We all work together. It’s not just one person,” Langi said, expressing how she was particularly happy she could do it for the team’s seniors.

One of those seniors had a big game in her own right: Kaija Glasker, who finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

“They’ve been doing it all year,” Schneider said of Langi and Glasker’s standout play. “They compete, and they’re relentless, and they kind of feed off each other’s energy. They’re a good duo and they just make things happen.”

The game was tight throughout the first half, with the Bruins taking a slim 23-22 lead into the break. Out of intermission is when the Rams started putting their mark on the game, as Schneider’s team outscored the Bruins 14-6 to build a 36-29 lead heading into the final eight minutes.

“The girls just made plays,” Schneider said. “Mountain View turned the ball over and when (Samiana Suguturaga) got in foul trouble — she’s a great player, and when one of your best players have to sit on the bench, it’s hard for teams to sometimes figure out who they are.”

Suguturaga led Mountain View with 17 points but was held scoreless throughout the final quarter.

From Langi’s perspective, the Rams simply grew weary of playing yet another close game.

“We were just frustrated at them always coming back, so we just wanted to separate, and fortunately we were able to do it with a team effort and just focusing on what we needed to get done,” Langi said.

Highland now has the opportunity for a state championship well within its grasp, with coaches and players very aware of what it all means.

“I told the girls that I’ve been coaching and playing many years and this is the first time I’ve ever been to a state championship,” Schneider said. “So the last thing I told (the players) is they’ve been taught everything they need to know ... now they just have to go do it.”

As for Langi, emotions were running a bit raw, with the freshman expressing gratitude for the opportunity she now has.

“It means so much because of all the work we’ve been through,” Langi said. “I’m just so happy to do it for all my teammates who make me better every day. I’m just very grateful right now.”

Highland will square off for the 5A state championship versus Springville on Saturday.